Anthony Albanese meets locals at Binjari in Katherine
Anthony Albanese has announced a $4 billion investment to boost Indigenous housing in the NT. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics (general)

‘Roof over your head’: $4b plan for remote housing fix

March 12, 2024

A multibillion-dollar housing spend designed to benefit Indigenous Australians living in overcrowded and dilapidated homes in the Northern Territory has been unveiled. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced $4 billion jointly funded by the federal and territory governments during a visit to the community of Binjari, near Katherine on Tuesday.

The federal government is contributing $2.1 billion, about $844 million of which is new money, with the rest repurposed from other projects.

Anthony Albanese in the NT
 Up to 270 homes will be built each year for a decade in a bid to halve overcrowding in the NT. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

The decade-long commitment will aim to build up to 270 homes each year and seek to halve overcrowding in the NT.

“If you don’t have a secure roof over your head, the chances of you having a healthy life, getting on with your education, of you being able to prosper and seize opportunities … simply won’t arise,” Mr Albanese said at the announcement in Binjari on Tuesday.

“This is an ambitious program, but it’s the right program.”

Increasing the proportion of Indigenous people living in homes that are not overcrowded to almost 90 per cent by 2031 is a target in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

An extra $120 million will be invested in housing and essential infrastructure upgrades in remote homelands, which have not traditionally been included in funding deals.

Maintenance of remote housing investments has been top of mind in the sector after the high court ruled in November that First Nations people living in dilapidated remote housing were entitled to compensation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
 Anthony Albanese says the plan is an “ambitious program but the right program”. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

The problems included leaking sewage, unstable electricity and a lack of air conditioning.

The project will be delivered through a partnership between the Commonwealth and territory, Aboriginal Land Councils and Aboriginal Housing NT. 

Central Land Council chief executive Les Turner welcomed the announcement.

“This investment goes beyond building much-needed houses. It has the potential to contribute towards closing the gap in health, education, employment and social outcomes as well,” he said.

“I look forward to considering the detail of the commitment.”

The territory’s peak Indigenous housing body will be given a further $1 million to support its role.

The government identified housing as a key policy priority for the Indigenous voice to parliament, which was defeated at a referendum in October.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said increasing housing supply would ease overcrowding, which was a major barrier to closing the gap.

Prime Minister and ministers in the NT
 Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney (right) says the investment will ease overcrowding. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“This is an historic investment that will make a difference to the lives of so many Aboriginal people living in remote communities,” she said.

NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler said the commitment would deliver new homes for more than 10,000 people.

“It’s great to be able to say to somebody in a remote community, you have a chance of owning your own home,” she said.

“The biggest influence on a child attending school is whether they have a home.”

Aboriginal Housing NT chief executive Skye Thompson said the announcement was the most comprehensive investment package into the NT’s remote housing and homelands sector.

“Its impact cannot be overstated,” she said.

“This investment will help ensure Aboriginal Australians across the NT are able to live with dignity and pride, where their kids can grow safe, healthy and strong and truly look to their futures with real hope and optimism.”